Chicago Examiner, November 6, 1910.
State St., World’s Greatest Mart, Shows Amazing Growth
Nine Big Stores Now Do $115,000,000 Annual Business;
Only $50,000,000 in 1890
A SLASH of sky and cloud above, a living thread of street beneath, and sharp on either side towering human hives of steel and brick and wood and glass— that is State Street—Chicago’s billion-dollar canyon!
Under this stretch of slated skylighted roofs on the scant six-block sweep that begins at Randolph street, on the north, and is choked off short on Van Buren street by the elevated loop, and under one big one Just outside, Chicago keeps her giants of retail trade with her department store, nine that clips coupons and carries off pennants every year in the world’s series of shops!
Wonderful marts are these! Boiled down and dished up for family use are samples of [Eastern caravans and bazaars and far-off jewel mines and harem-looms, and both Occidental factories and Oriental weaving-shops, and Irish peasant cabins, and Norwegian homes and French and Italian and Mexican convents, and fur fisheries, and everything in the world that is artistic and useful and practical and necessary.
Nowhere in the world do the lions lie down with the lambs as in a twentieth century department store! Jewels from the Indiesand silks from Persia and China own the same shelter as breakfast foods from Battle Creek, Mich., home-made pickles, choice cuts of beef, fancy candies, hair-dressing shops, bureaus for theater and steamship tickets, rest rooms, dentists, chiropodists, garments ready to wear and fabrics ready to make! And on the other side of the scale? What can balance all this picturesqueness, pray? Look at the
In the past twenty years the annual business of State street department stores has swelled from a paltry fifty millions to more than one hundred and fifteen millions! That’s State street!
This, too, in the face of the fact that Chicago”s retail district wears both halter and hobble! The withe of the elevated loop throttles and the gird of insufficient surface transportation pinches. And so, unable to grow sideways and outwards, Chicago, as becomes a philosopher and a lady, has made the best of things and played quits with circumstances. She has shot upward and downward. Results show an unparalleled sky line of star-scrapers and a brigade of ever-increasing basements.
Siegel Cooper and Hillman’s Department Stores Advertisements
SHOPS BELOW STREET
Three basement shops, one beneath the other in well-regulated sequence, is not at all an unusual family of cellar stores for a State street department store to boast. Aided by modern invention and science, with pipings of pure air drawn from the clouds, lighted and controlled by applications of electricity and with millions of minor modern inventive conveniences, the work of conquering the bowels of the earth is proceeding with twin-sister rapidity to the victory over the heights of the air.
Thrifty Captain Kldd work on the space below the street surface on the part of downtown merchants has even aroused the City Fathers. It is but agenerous year since the Chicago Council sat down and worried over the fact that merchants and business houses galore had basemented under sidewalk space and street space and weren’t paying rental therefor to the city treasury. That all happened, so they say, on a day when the administration was slightly bothered about resources.
One thing is certain. If the mania for both shooting up and digging down preserves its present ratio for the next ten years State street will soon be a big dumbbell, with a city of stores above and another below the street line, with the thoroughfare itself nothing but a lever with which to pivot either end.
State street’s success is a fine example of moral suasion. Chicago, with true Western spirit, early demonstrated a tendency to spread all over as much space as possible. So she scrambled and sprawled out to the north and the south and the west as far as she could. Eastward Lake Michigan intervened, but the city took the deli and put its water cribs and intakes as far out as was advisable and let it go at that. As Chicago bubbled and ran over its early limits and commenced to build homes farther and farther out, at least a dozen different sections began to show streets which boasted well-stocked, well-kept shops with prices and grades of goods that compared favorably with the downtown establishments.
State street said nothing. It sat and took counsel together and looked wise. Then State street got to work. The result? Each of the nine giants— Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., Marshall Field, Mandel Bros., Charles A. Stevens & Bro., The Fair, Siegel Cooper & Co., the Boston Store, Rothschild’s and Hillman’s— is in itself a great club, a co-operative community. Every article needed in any part of the world, in any emergency and at any time for any purpose can be had under the roofs of these stores.
To catalogue what these sky-scrapers hold wouldbe to call off a third of the dictionary. To be brief, you could be born, live and die in these State street doors as to-day has made them. The State street shops spread their baitfor the love of ease and the foibles of human kind most neatly.
State Street looking north from Randolph in 1911.
EVERY KNOWN LUXURY.
There are telephone booths galore, rest and recuperating rooms for the tired shopper or wearied business woman who must be down town all day. There are even “silence rooms” that are as quiet and possess all the properties of a similar apartment in a first-class sanitarium. There are children’s play rooms, recesses where the toilet may be freshened and furbelowed, shoe shops, hat shops, manicure parlors, tea rooms,lunch room grills, dressmaking departments— everything— anything. Waiting rooms stocked with magazines and libraries— a better place for Mrs. Wife to meet Mr. Hubby than the cafe or the hotelparlor— facilities for purchasing theater tickets or railroad tickets or steamship tickets or a combination of both to any part of the world.
You can give a dinner party or a luncheon to your friends in the restaurants of the department stores and find them arranged with all the precision and daintiness that you would have required from your own personalservants. Given a modern State street department store and a purse and you can do anything— yes, you can even do your banking there, and Uncle Sam has so smiled on these enterprises of modern commerce that his branch post-offices too are there, and added to cable and telegraph facilities help out the efficiency of the woman’s own business world.’
Flowers and fountains and music and even art exhibits! You find all these in the modern department store, the educated and cultivated great-great-granddaughter of the wampum trading of New England and the village store of the frontier where codfish traded perfumes with kerosene and plug tobacco, crackers, cheese and cabbages were neck and neck with calicoes, delaines, writing paper and churns. Truly we arrive at great estates and at devious ways in these days of our refinement and aestheticism.
Rothschild and Charles A. Stevens & Brothers Department Stores Advertisements
This was not done at a single bound, and no great man’s interest therein had much chance for sleep during the process either. Every move on State street has been carefully planned by men who can feel the pulse and diagnose the future of that elusive but powerful thing in every nation’s Iife— TRADE!
That $115,000,000 mark was reached gradually. Spanning this colossal sum for 1910 and the $50,000,000 in 1890 stands the $70,000,000 of 1900. To-day the sales force stands doubled over what it registered a score of years ago. And so has the quality! It takes trains to be a salesman or saleswoman in a State street department store in 1910. And as for the buyers— these keen-headed, clearsighted men and women must be shrewd financiers, must possess quick business judgment and commercial ability or they fail— fall flatter than a bride’s biscuits, and are put out with the terrible brand “Incompetent.”
The increase in the floor space over that of twenty years ago is 67 per cent! Ten years ago these stores, Chicago’s big nine that never fails to win, figured in the composite 3,77G,559 square feet of floor space. To-day they have 0,495,925 square feet. Figured into percentages floor space to-day runs 149.1 acres to 86.G9 acres ten years ago. Ten years ago the employes rostered 15,700, to-day the roll reads “33,900.” And every day the whole corn-belt sends in people and people and people to
shop on State street. Ten times as many visiting shoppers throng Chicago now as did ten years ago.
The Chicago department stores are not a cause, they are an effect. They are tbe result of the net of careful buying, selecting, and even exploring that comes from the efforts of hundreds and thousands of men and women who scour all the capitals and the highways and the byways of every country in the world for the best of its products and the finest of its merchandise. On State street the Chicago woman finds a huge, carefully selected magic bag spread open for her careful culling. System
outsystematized. That is what time and brains and attention have brought to the modern merchant.
The chronicles of the “street” are tragedy, farce, comedy and opera bouffe. In State street the two sides have exceeded the pivot in power. For they talk now of destroying State street, of puttinga tiered thoroughfare’in between the big stores, of having story on story of streets as well as stores, and perhaps of even roofing over this vast tenement of commerce!
But while architects argue and people plan, the street, a silent, insensate asphalted thing, cut and slashed by car tracks, groaning under the weight of traffic and the trample of many feet, lies silent. All day the big policemen, the “brass-buttoned beauty squad,” whistle and shout and cleave the human stream that besets it, and disentangle horse and child and once in a great while a stray dog, from wagon and car and cab and automobile!
From 6:30 in the morning till 6 o’clock in the evening, State street is about the busiest place on this continent. But the babies’ bedtime hour seems to ring -a proper curfew for State street. After that, barring a few crossing theater patrons seeking street cars or cabs. State street is practically deserted. There never was a street in the world that went to bed and stayed in bed as beautifully as State street. If it has any troubles at all, it tells them to the stars, for on State street there are no night policemen.